Frankel has a lot to learn about the mating game
For Frankel the super-stallion, the official start of a new life of amorous assignations falls, aptly enough, on Valentine’s Day.
But in the four weeks since his happy retirement after 14 races unbeaten he has made a seamless transition and on Thursday, amid the bucolic splendour of Banstead Manor Stud, outside Newmarket, the champion-turned-prospective sire extraordinaire was paraded in his new guise.
The coat was just as glorious, the musculature just as sculpted, but there was a difference about Frankel’s poise. Flanked by fellow stallions Dansili, Oasis Dream and Bated Breath — whom stud manager Simon Mockridge affectionately labelled “the boys” — the four year-old projected little of his familiar aura as the kingpin. Naturally, in an environment where status could be conferred exclusively by virility, he was the untested new arrival.
“When I went to see Frankel at Sir Henry Cecil’s yard, he was the alpha male in that domain — you could tell,” Mockridge explained. “He was the one in charge, everyone else buckled down to him.”
According to Philip Mitchell, Banstead Manor’s general manager and the man who nurtured Frankel from foal to yearling, the hierarchy has had to be adjusted. “Dansili is the old pro, he didn’t take any notice of Frankel,” he said. “He thought, 'Obviously there’s a new arrival. We’ll see how he gets on.’ Oasis Dream was in a sulk for about two days. They’re very intelligent, they have their pecking order. Frankel suddenly realised that he was the new kid on the block.”
For the moment Frankel’s life is one of indulged bliss, walking up to seven miles in hand each day while receiving a few changes to his diet. At the peak of his fabulous racing career he was eating 23lbs of oats a day, but his intake now is varied with nutrients and minerals designed to ensure maximum potency.
He is gradually learning more libidinous behaviour, too. “In training, they are dissuaded from is taking an interest in fillies,” Mockridge said. “So you need to get him used to pheromone smells, and introduce him to the fact that he is now allowed to look.”
His team do not have long, for in February the serious business begins, as breeders from across the globe pay the £125,000 stud fee to have their mares bear Frankel’s progeny. Already Danedream, winner of last year’s Arc, has been lined up, as well as multiple Group One winners Stacelita and Alexander Goldrun. Beyond Europe, Japanese champion Vodka and US mare Oatsee are also blazing the trail to the breeding shed 'chez’ Frankel.
To explore the science of breeding is sometimes to lapse into euphemistic language. Might Frankel, one ventured, have any difficulties in mastering the art of covering? “You never know,” Mitchell admitted. “There are some stallions who can wander into the yard, look up at the roof and count the sparrows.” Mockridge recalled a particular case in Japan, where War Emblem, who won the 2002 Kentucky Derby, rejected almost every mare presented to him. “He was just not interested. But it’s rare.”
Mitchell anticipated no such problems as Frankel prepares to cover up to three mares a day, and 130 a season. “We would like to think that if Frankel saw some mares in the distance, he would be taking a natural interest. I’m sure that he’ll be 'all male’ and that it will go well.”
The burning question, though, remains whether the ultimate racing specimen can go on to produce the ultimate offspring. “Frankel was the most brilliant racehorse; not only did he win 14 races but he retired sound, and that’s important,” Mitchell argued. “He’s by Galileo — now the best sire in the world — and his dam is by Danehill, also a fantastic sire. So when you have two highly successful sires as close up in the pedigree, it gives you reason for optimism.
“It’s unknown territory for us all. You’re never really sure if you have the chicken that lays the golden egg. But make no mistake, this horse is probably the best horse I’ve seen and probably the best horse we have ever seen. He will have every opportunity. The book of mares will be high-class, from the very best breeders, from the world over.”
It was left to Mitchell to express Frankel’s prospects in t he most succinct terms: “You put the best with the best and hope for the best.”
Oliver Brown, The Telegraph
23 November 2012